EVALUATION OF LIBRARIANS’ PROFESSIONAL TRAINING IN MEETING THE INFORMATION NEEDS OF USERS IN THE DIGITAL AGE IN UNIVERSITY LIBRARY IN NORTH CENTRAL ZONE, NIGERIA
Background of the Study
The University library is an integral part of a university, which exists to meet the information needs of students, staff, researchers and other users in the community. Edom (2013) defined university library as a repository of wisdom of great thinkers of the past and the present. Its collections and services are designed to meet the instructional programme of the institution involved. The concept of the library as the soul of the university, the pivot around which all teaching evolves is widely acknowledged. No university can exist without a library since university is meant to teach and carry out research. Every university library is established to meet some set objectives.
The library is indeed the life wire of a university system for it performs myriads of functions in assisting the university to achieve the various goals set out in her mission and vision statements and this is the main objective of the university library. The vision, mission and strategies which are selected by universities as a guide for meeting the core function of teaching, learning, research and providing information form the foundation on which the role of the university library is established, Okafor (2011) and Rejendran (2005) averred that the main function of a University library is to serve as an auxiliary to a parent institution in carrying out its objectives. He also noted that the library is an important intellectual resource of an academic community, and helps the university to fulfill the curriculum requirements and promote studies and research through their services. Generally, the university library objective is to support academic activities in their university community. To achieve this, relevant resources of all kind need to be put in place to satisfy the learning, teaching and research needs of users, Gani and Magoi (2014). Essentially, a University Library exists to support the teaching, learning, research and community services. This is done especially through the provision of relevant and current information resources in both print and electronic formats and information services that are easily accessed and utilized by users to meet their diverse information needs and expectation.
The services of the university library include indexing and abstracting services, cataloguing services, bibliographical services, reference services, inter library loan services, user education services, information services and circulation services. It is therefore imperative that the university librarians function effectively in their services to meet the user’s needs. However, rapid advances in information processing, storage and communication technology have revolutionized the roles of the university libraries worldwide in disseminating information service to their users as a result, university libraries are facing new challenge, new expectations, and variety of information services from users tailored to their wants and needs. It is safe to say that much of the success of the university in achieving the set objectives depend largely on the quality of services render by the library. The quality of services offered by the librarians to the users in turn depends on technological skills possessed by the librarians in the digital age.
The digital age is the time period starting in the 1970s with the introduction of the personal computer with subsequent technology introduced providing the ability to transfer information freely and quickly. University libraries generally attempt to expand their holdings on an ongoing basis. However, during the 1990s acquisition of expensive printed materials began slowing at most university libraries as more funds were devoted to the acquisition of new computers, telecommunications equipments for access to the internet, and online databases,(Davidson and Goldberg 2010). This trend brought tremendous changes and developments in the field of library and information science in general and changed the role of librarians in university libraries.
A Librarian is a professional who works in the library, providing access to information resources of various formats. Librarians hold a graduate or postgraduate qualification in library and information science from library school, and are professionals in the field of librarianship. According to Ezema, Ugwu and Ugwuanyi (2014) Librarians are professionally trained persons responsible for the care of a library and its contents, including the selection, processing and organization of materials and the delivery of information, instruction, and loan services to meet the needs of its users. Librarians are mediators between information resources and the users. Their main responsibilities include acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of information resources to satisfy user’s information need. Therefore, a librarian does three main kinds of work: selecting materials for the library, organizing them so that they will be easy to find and use and helping people get materials or information they need. With advent and availability of new technologies librarians operate in a different environment called electronic environment
Librarians in this era are technology application leaders who work with other members of the information management team to design and evaluate systems for access that meet user needs. The application of digital trends in the university libraries have brought about automated cataloguing, circulation, information retrieval, electronic document delivery, and CD-ROM databases etc. Gassman (2013) posited that the 21st century librarians provide services to faceless patrons. Librarians have also shifted from manual to online cataloguing. He said that their present roles and expectations include indexing services, web designing as well as management of library computer systems. They are faced with the issue of developing software and the MARC standards needed for cataloguing records electronically as well as .management · of intrusion servers. They are equally expected to teach their clients how to use the new technologies in accessing their materials. Most modem day librarians provide virtual reference services and battle with the challenges of moving from manual to more virtual work environments.
Users can now access library and research materials from remote locations with easy. The pooled resources are made available electronically to each library site (those that are digitalized) using Information and Communication Technology (ICT).Thus such libraries have the potential for providing the latest and comprehensive resources and delivering it instantaneously to users. Libraries are now extending their traditional roles of facilitating self-education and individual enrichment by providing low-cost or free computer access to online resources. The modern libraries are not simply repositories for information; they are also the dynamic gateways to information. It has become fashionable nowadays as many libraries are beginning to make use of the web to disseminate information and provide services to their users.
But this development has been greeted by the dearth of experienced library staff that could meet the new demand (Oduwole,2005; Adedoyin 2005, Igun 2006).
Presently, work for the library and information profession has become characterized by fast-paced change and new skills requirements. Library and information science professionals are increasingly required to adapt their skills and practice in order to gain an awareness of technological advances. The traditional roles are being increasingly subsumed by new skills and working environments and, therefore, job descriptions (Ashcroft, 2004). Thus, LIS professionals are expected to be aware of, and capable of, using and demonstrating emerging ICTs hence, the need for additional training to augment the traditional skills and knowledge base with a competency in ICT use.
Professional training is defined as the process of improving and increasing capabilities of staff through access to education and training opportunities in the workplace, through outside organization, or through watching others perform the job (Amisano,2010). It is also referred to as staff development. Professional development helps build and maintain morale of staff members, and is thought to attract higher quality staff to an organization. The two major training methods are on the job and off the job. Professional training has to do with acquiring the skills needed to perform optimally in ones professional choice. Every profession in the world is changing with the passage of time neither the practices nor the tools and techniques used remain constant. So, to keep a profession up to date the professionals must maintain and upgrade their knowledge according to the changing need of the hour. Continuing professional development is a way to enhance the skills, knowledge and experience both, formally and informally. As the one proceed through the career path to remain competent and achieve the true potential, the journey starts with the basic degree required to initiate or opt for a profession and continues throughout the life of the professionals along with the growing changes.
The essence of professional training for librarians is to satisfy the diversities of information needs of library patrons through professional information service delivery. The librarians need information on how to deliver numerous applications such as local/wide area network applications, online information services, online journals and databases, library databases, online access catalogues, automated circulation services, digital online archives (Ghuloum and Ahmed, 2011).Therefore, Knowledge of the information needs of users is vital for developing library collections, upgrading facilities, and improving services to effectively meet the information needs of users. Information professionals including librarians are required to learn the new technologies and the associated skills to cope with the demand of the digital age. Particularly, those professionals who did not get any training regarding the new technology during their professional degree, they are required to overcome this deficiency using the various available options which include conferences (local, national and international), workshops, and seminars, personal training, on-the –job training methods etc.
Librarians should be trained in the following areas in order to meet the information needs of the digital age; web design, development and maintenance of databases, web navigation, development and management of library softwares and websites, online information organization and management, online cataloguing, e-referencing, preservation of information by electronic means etc The digital trend calls for skills in creating search strategies, metadata creation skills, the use of networked sources and bibliographic tools, the design of interfaces and more (Bawden et al, 2005)
Librarians should also have expert knowledge of the content of information resources, including the ability to critically evaluate and filter them. They should also have specialized subject knowledge appropriate to the business of the organization or client, develop and manage, and provide accessible and cost-effective information services that are aligned with the strategic directions of the organization, provide excellent instruction and support for library and information service user, assess information needs and designs and markets value-added information services and products to meet identified needs, use appropriate information technology to acquire, organize and disseminate information (Bawden et al 2005). The librarian should develop specialized information products for use inside or outside the organization or by individual clients, evaluate the outcomes of information use and conducts research related to the solution of information management problems, continually improve information services in response to the changing needs, act as effective members of the senior management team and a consultant to the organization on information issues (Bawden et al 2005). Magoi (2014) noted that digital trend services do not only allow the readers to enjoy the convenience of resource sharing, but also enable the resources of the academic libraries to get maximum utilization irrespective of time and space.
It is imperative at this point to have an understanding of the background of the seven federal universities libraries of the North-central Zone of Nigeria under study. University of Abuja was established on January 1st 1988 (under Decree no. 110 of 1992 as amended) as a dual mode university with the mandate to run conventional and distance learning programme, it is the first university in Nigeria to assume such a dual mandate, it is thus committed to and seeks academic excellence while ensuring equal education; access to a diverse constituency thus preparing students for productive roles in the society. University of Abuja library was established in 1988 the same year the university was founded. The main library is located at Gwagwalada campus. It has a seating capacity of 2,000 seats. The attempts to integrate its information resources into hybrid services began in 2005 and still in progress. Digital services such as the internet services, on-line database, CD ROMs, e-journals are provided to assist teaching, learning and research purposes. It is true that library profession has proliferation of programme but still no improvement in the service delivery. This is situation in the federal university libraries under study. Online materials are accessed by users only through search engines and not library databases.
The Federal University, Lokoja was established along with other twelve (12) new Federal universities on the 16th February, 2011 following a pronouncement by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Essentially, a University Library was also established to support the teaching, learning research and community services and function of the University it is meant to serve. The vision of the Federal University Lokoja Library is to provide high quality information resources and services that will be comparable to the world standard. The incorporation of digital trend which started in 2013 is still in progress.
Federal University, Lafia is also one of the twelve federal universities established by the federal government of Nigeria in 2011 with the aim of expanding access to, and improves the quality of high education in Nigeria. The university library was established alongside the university to provide the information resources necessary to achieve this goal.
The Federal University of Technology, Minna is equally a Federal Government owned university in Nigeria. It was established on 1st February, 1983. The objective for the establishment of this university is to give effect to the nations drive for the much needed self-reliance in sciences, engineering, and especially technology. It is a specialized university of technology. (FUT.edu., 2009). The university library of Federal University of Technology, Minna also known as Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) library was established in 1983 at the creation of the university. The main library has an annex at Bosso campus, in all the libraries have a 2,200 seating capacity. The university library has attempted to integrate its services, particularly the serials section in 2006. This has resulted in the conversion of some of their journals into digital form and subscription for e-journals, on-line database and WebOPAC.
In the same vein, University of Ilorin was established by a decree of the Federal Military Government in 1975 and it is a Federal Government owned tertiary institution of education located in Ilorin, Kwara- State, north central, Nigeria. It was established in order to implement one of the educational directives of the country’s Third National Development Plan aimed at providing more opportunities for Nigerians aspiring to acquire university education and to generate high level man-power so vital for the rapidly expanding economy. The library of University of Ilorin was established in 1976 and has a seating capacity of 2,400. The library is making serious efforts at integrating its information services since 2002 particularly the serials section through provision of e-journals, which is complementing the physical resources. Also provided are CDroms, databases and OPAC Website which the library subscribes to (Obaje,2011).
According to unijos.edu (2010), University of Jos, started as a campus of the University of Ibadan in November, 1971. In October 1975, the then Military Government announced the establishment of seven new universities, including university of Jos which was established with the vision of being an innovative institution with great interaction between; town and gown. The university today, carries a high responsibility of fashioning tastes and attitudes of the future. It is committed to providing education that is globally competitive and relevant to the needs of today’s employer and the developing challenges of Nigeria and beyond. The university library of University of Jos was established in 1975 and it is as old as the university itself. It has a 2,350 seating capacity for readers. The library started the integration of digital resources in 2001 when e-Granary digital library was established in collaboration with University of Iowa, USA and installed OPAC in 2010, (Ochai, 2012). The process is still on. The digital services offers are: internet services, e-journal and digital format of physical resources, subscription to OPAC Website.
The Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi is located in Makurdi, the capital of Benue State of Nigeria. It occupies an arable land area of 8,048 hectares, thus making it the largest holder of agricultural land mass amongst institutions of its kind. By Federal Operation Policy, the University of Agriculture, Makurdi mandate covers 60% of Nigeria, with nineteen (19) Northern states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory as its catchments area. The integration of teaching adaptive research and extension learning approach of the university has created a demanding and intellectually stimulating environment for students. Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi also known as Francis Idachaba library was established in 1988 when the university was established. It has a modest seating capacity of 1,550. It is just starting a process of integrating its information resources. What is presently available in the library is internet services, e-journals with its physical copies (uniagric.portal,2012) see appendix.
It must be realized that many university libraries in Nigeria are yet to take advantage of the digital trend in their service delivery. The seven federal universities of the North-central states operate library services which provide resources for research, teaching and learning. The only way to measure success is by the product so if the effect of different training programmes organized both locally and national for librarians is not felt by the users then one can say that the objective of the training is forfeited. Most professional librarians still lack some of the necessary skill required to perform in this age. Nkanu and Okon (2010) confess that those Nigerian libraries with and those without access to information technology is actually narrowing, as the information Age continues to expand the horizon through which information services are provided in libraries. This is one of the many challenges confronting Nigerian libraries and librarians as information technology sweeps the world.
The librarians of this age ought to offer e-services using digital tools our but practically most of the libraries in Nigeria continue to use traditional tools in the acquisition, processing, storage and delivery of services to their information communities. Under this type of arrangement, majority of the library subscription are in printed format. Kniru (2010) confirms this situation when he said that, in Nigeria, academic libraries have not quite reached the status of providing access to digital resources and information owing to some challenges which militate against access provision in academic libraries. According to him most academic libraries operate the traditional library services of providing print resources and as a result, users were not getting maximum benefit of the library services as they were restricted to only the resources of their libraries. Also Ogunsola, Akindojutimi and Adenike (2011) in their research reported thus, in Nigeria, the expression “virtual library” or “digital library” is relatively new, being a little than a decade old. However, it has been observed that most academic libraries in Nigeria still struggle with manual library operation methods. According to Ajidahun(2009), library schools in Nigerian do not equip librarians with adequate technological and electronic skills. That is why many librarians in Nigeria today are not computer-literate. So, libraries need to provide training avenues and opportunities for their librarians more so in the area of computer and electronic skill acquisition. This is very important and urgent because in the words of Gbaje and Ukachi (2011) the information technology savvy patrons prefer digital resources and services in the digital work environment to paper based. Despite the numerous training programmes, there is abundance of unskilled or outdated skills among library staff in the North central zone generally. If one of the critical roles of the library in this age is that of serving as a gateway to the virtual collections and databases of electronic texts and journals then the effects of this training should be seen in the service delivery of the professional librarians.
Statement of the Problem
It has been observed that some librarians still lack the most needed technological skills required for effective and efficient services delivery in the digital age. The dire consequences being that either the right kinds of skills are not been imparted (especially with regard to digitalization) or the facilities needed to discharge their professional duties are not provided. The explosive information revolution has placed information at people’s finger tips. A click at a button on the computer can display enormous amount of information, in such a scenario the tendency is to rely on self rather than the Librarians in the search for information and this fact placed the intermediary role of the librarians between information and the user under threat. This explains why the librarians need all the professional training they could get in order to be well equipped for efficient service delivery in the digital age.
The above scenario made effectiveness and efficiency of services offered by the professional librarians paramount to their existence, thus the study is set to look into the librarians’ professional training in order to remain relevant in this digital age marked by many adjustments and innovation in offering library services in the university libraries.
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study is to determine the training of librarians for service delivery in the digital age in the university libraries in North Central Nigeria. Specifically, it intends to:
1. Find out the information needs of users in the digital age
2. Ascertain the competencies needed by librarians in providing the information needs of users in the digital age
3. Determine the competencies possessed by the professional librarians of the university library
4. Determine the facilities available for training the librarians to enhance information service delivery in digital age.
5. Determine the methods of training employed in training professional librarians in the university library
6. Identify those factors that hinder professional training for librarians in the university libraries.
7. Determine the strategies for enhancing professional training of librarians in order to meet the information needs of users.
The following research questions were formulated to guide this study
1. What are the information needs of users in the digital age
2. What are the professional competencies/skills needed by librarians for meeting the information needs of users in the digital age?
3. What are the professional competencies possessed by the professional librarians of the university libraries?
4. What is the extent of provision of resources for the professional training of the librarians to enhance information service delivery in digital age?
5. What are the methods of training employed in training professional librarians in the university libraries?
6. What are the factors that affect professional training of librarians in the university libraries?
7. What are the strategies for enhancing professional training for librarians in order to meet the information needs of users?
Significance of the study
This study is expected to be of immense benefit to librarians, information scientists, archivists, record managers, library schools, researchers and library administrators and managers They are expected to gain immensely as this study will equip them to effectively and efficiently enhance their professional roles by allowing them to create, develop and manage a library or information unit which meets the specific information needs of their parent organization.
For the librarians, the study will expose the various novel (digital) areas where they need professional training in order to meet up with the demands of the 21st century library environment. The librarians coming in contact with this study will know where adjustment is needed in regard to digitalization in her profession.
It will stimulate the information professionals to realize what they need in order to serve their clientele well. The study will also establish the existing gaps in the adoption of information and Communication technology in the operations and services delivery of information centers as it relates to North Central Nigeria.
It will also be beneficial to library schools because they will see the need to restructure their curriculum in order to train competent librarians. Since the library schools are the centres where these knowledge whether traditional or digital is imparted, there is need to balance the equation and ensure that while teaching them the traditional library routines, they also need to be abreast with the demands of modern digital library services and so package their training programmes accordingly.
Researchers will find this study very useful because it will be a relevant document for future research in this field of study. As a result of unavailable literature in this subject area, so many research works have been on stand still. This study therefore might serve a valuable piece of information for those researchers.
Also, the library administrators and managers will find this work useful as it will help them to formulate policies on staff training especially in regard to digitization thereby inspiring them to give priority attention to the training of librarians so as to boost their library performance with the state of the art technology expertise, globalizing their local contents and announcing their library to the whole world.
Scope of the Study
This study is devoted to training of librarians for services delivery in the digital age in university libraries in the North-Central Geopolitical Zone of Nigeria. It focuses on the need for training the librarians so as to cope with the changes brought about the digital age and also remain relevant. The North Central Nigeria comprises of six (6) states which includes: Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Plateau and Niger States including Federal Capital Territory Abuja. However, the study will be centered on universities Libraries within the zone..